Svenska Likbrännings Föreningen ‎– Likvaka

Svenska Likbrännings Föreningen ‎– Likvaka MC Cloister Recordings 2021

Being a new Swedish project the chosen moniker translates to ‘Swedish Cremation Association’, which provides a fairly apt indication of the muted death industrial and dark ambient sonics found herein, delivered in a very recognisable Nordic vein from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s (i.e. Lille Roger, early Brighter Death Now, Archon Satani, early Mz.412 etc).

Shimmering textures and ashen toned synth lines provide elongated muted semi-melodious elements around which random thuds, sporadic clangs, mangled vocal eruptions and guttural chants abound. On selected tracks the catacomb ambiences sees the clanging tones and thudding elements coalesce into forward rolling rhythmic structures. As for the general tone of the production, it is muffled yet equally thick and sonically overblown, which is a typical aspect of this sort of material, and therefore adding to the general dank charm on display. Variations on the above sonic parameters ultimately play out over the span of the eight tracks, and where the translated track titles suitable match the sonics, such as: Meat On The Pathologist’s Table; Death Redeems; and Ethanol / Glycerin fixation. A specifically notably track is Embalming Hunger, as it stands apart based on its rolling martial toned beat and grimly grinding synths which gives a clear nod to Mz.412.

While the original digital version of this release was issued on Nordvargr’s label 205 Recordings in late 2020, Cloister Recordings have given this a limited pressing on tape in an edition of 100 copies. In its physical edition the J-card has been purposefully aged and distressed and housed in an old scratch up 1980’s cassette case to suitably match the featured music. So, while certainly not turning the chosen style on its head, this is still an excellent and very enjoyable tape without sounding cynically retro or structurally formulaic. A project to watch with keen interest.

Tone Generator & The Body Without Organs – Normalisation Of Response

Tone Generator & The Body Without Organs – Normalisation Of Response CD Inner City Uprising 2021

Tone Generator aka Dominic Guerin is a somewhat infamous key contributor to the early classic industrial/noise era of SPK (i.e. late 1970’s/early 1980’s). But apart from his sporadic involvement with another industrial group Last Dominion Lost, he has not been publicly active with music over the subsequent four decades. For this new project Dominic has teamed up with Scott Barnes (whom I am not familiar), while the experimental industrial tracks spanning 50 minutes have been recorded over the period of 2019/2020.

Each of the nine tracks function as standalone compositions, where wonky tripped out synths, convulsive rhythmic elements, squelching sonics and a general buzzing thrum abound, but also which evokes a darker hued atmospheric industrial/noise thread throughout. The overall production is specifically noteworthy given it is thick and forceful without being overblown or its tonal elements muddied through sonic overcrowding. The cover then provides short liner notes on each track to articulate specific conceptual underpinnings, but even so sonic appreciation of the album is not hampered without it.

Opening track Lost In Space (dedicated to the Soviet space program) features a deep space tonal drift, sweeping radiation tones and sparse radio voices, while Ballard of the BWO increases a wonky disorienting tone of sparse textures and generally unintelligible disembodied voices. Ne/H/il’s Back Room is the most obvious throwback to early SPK due to both its thematic content and the sampled rhythmic element (sample credited to James Pinker and originally featured on the track Day of Pigs from SPK’s second album Leichenschrei). Here the sampled and looped rhythmic beat has been welded onto a brooding industrial soundscape while Dominic narrates aspects of Ne/H/il’s personal sexual proclivities. The Wasteland stands then out substantially from the rest given the central focus on its fizzing and spitting mid-paced pulse, while treated vocals and a variety of other sonic smeared textures are relegated to the background. Flight of Ideas round out the album, being the longest track at eight minutes, which arcs off into various sonic directions over its course, given the choppy cut up dynamics keeps the sound ever shifting, yet retaining a general sense of forward pace and momentum.

If there was any question regarding the impact Tone Generator had on early SPK material (and specifically the Information Overload Unit album), this new material functions to significantly underline that fact. Yet far from being a mere retread of earlier sounds and sonic ideas, Normalisation of Response is playfully experimental without ever sounding dryly academic or forgoing its darker toned atmospherics. Consequently, Normalisation Of Response is an excellent album and comes with a very strong recommendation from these quarters.

Den Sorte Død – Den Sorte Død

Den Sorte Død – Den Sorte Død LP Cyclic Law 2021

Den Sorte Død are a (Swedish?) duo, which is a collaborative project of two other solo synth-based projects, namely Offermose and Angst. This self-titled album is the fourth release from the project since 2017.

Being broadly bracketed under an ambient synth/dungeon synth descriptor, it is perhaps important to place Den Sorte Død within the context of the current dungeon synth contemporaries. With the recent rise in the dungeon synth genre, clearly there are a select few who are inspired by and deliver a decent homage to the general style/sound ‘Era 1’ Mortiis, with Shadow Dungeon and Old Tower being notable examples. Yet the greater majority of newer dungeon synth project I have heard seem to have completely forgone the gloomy and melancholic aspects of the style, and instead opted to elevate a twee/jolly/whimsical medieval fantasy realm sound, where the all-important thread of obscurity and darkness is absent. Consequently the greater majority of current dungeon synth material does not appeal to me at all.

Then stepping into the fold is Den Sort Dod, who stand completely apart from the above observation. While they can be generally tagged with the dungeon synth label, equally they have looked further afield for sonic inspiration, which notably is the synth sound of the ‘Berlin School’, such as Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze etc. To then close this loop back with the origins of the dungeon synth genre (which is broadly agreed to have started from Era 1 Mortiis), it is interesting to note that both Mortiis and other second wave Norwegian Black Metal musicians also namechecked the same Berlin School artists.

This is perhaps a longwinded way to put Den Sorte Død in context, but it is clearly an important one. Den Sorte Død sound is one that draws far more heavily from the Berlin School sound, where the dreamy, spacey and psychedelic sound stands strong, but which has then been twisted towards dungeon synth territories through a dark, gloomy and obscure tone. Eight tracks feature across just short of 40 minutes, given the slow-paced instrumental tracks span from three to eight minutes each. Minimalist and darkly atmospheric synths are layered in forms of sustained tones and melodious loops, where occasionally a thread of a slow rhythmic beat is included. Det Tabte Slag is a standout with its central dour organ melody and driving underpinning cyclic melody. Equally the title track is another noteworthy piece with a driving mid paced percussive pulse around which the synth melodies twist and weave in an elevating and semi-triumphant manner.

Personally, I have appreciated this bleakly melancholic album from Den Sorte Død over many repeated listens, and one of its greatest strengths is that it demonstrates a project that draws upon its influences and twists them into new and engaging forms. Available on gatefold vinyl or CD, whichever is the preference for physical format.

Blue Eyes ‎– Verlorene Träume

Blue Eyes ‎– Verlorene Träume MC self-released 2021

Blue Eyes are a previously unknown entity, but whom I believe is a German project, with Verlorene Träume appearing to be their second tape. To then not prejudge this tape on the cover alone, it is worthwhile noting that the title translates to ‘Lost Dreams’, and as such neither the image or title hints at the raw noise blended power electronics attack found on the tape’s three untitled tracks.

The open track blusters into frame with hollow distortion, featuring a modicum of a tune with a bass toned melody siting underneath. But that melodious element is short lived when the track gets down to a lengthy section of brutally load and sonically overblown noise calamity, where vocals are smeared somewhere within the over din. The second cut is even more chaotic, with mid-toned to high pitched noise, unhinged upfront vocals and where rupturing and sporadic pulses of lower end distortion at times give a partial sense of structure in the general forward flow. Yet other segments push a more dynamic approach, where it pulls back on the lower end whilst retaining a higher end sustained whistling noise, before blasting in again with the lower end distortion. With the overall bulk and heft of the sound, the general impression I get from this is a ‘live in studio recording’ where head height speaker stacks have been pushed to their limit and beyond with the generated feedback. Clearly freeform, but also with a sense of pacing and direction, I am also not sure if this is partially improvised.

Based on the overall rawness and overblown tone of the recording, this certainly aligns with the general tone and approach of the Filth & Violence label roster. A simple and no-frills J-card rounds out an equally no-frills and straight to the point tape. If raw power electronics heavily slanted towards brutal overblown noise side of proceedings, this tape delivers in spades.

Beckahesten – Tydor

Beckahesten – Tydor CD Cyclic Law 2021

Swedish trio Beckahesten have quickly followed up their 2020 debut album Vattenhålens Dräpare (reviewed here), and based on its general style and sound, as well as overall design aesthetic, this is very much a companion album to the debut.

Yet apart from the obvious similarities to the debut, one notable aspect of Tydor is the greater elevation and stronger focus on its Nordic folk elements, particularly evidenced by the chanted and emotivity sung lead vocals of Viktoria Rolandsdotter which has being brought the fore on many of Tydor’s nine tracks. Equally the accompanying musical backing then ranges from dusky soundscapes to more folk based songs, but all broadly framed around a variety of tonal elements including: deep melodious drones, spartan ritual chimes, heathen percussive thrum, folk tinged violins, guttural chants/throat singing, and windswept field recordings. Thus, regardless if a piece forms a sparse soundscape, or otherwise delivers a song focused composition, the consistently evoked atmosphere forms an intense twilight mood and archaic folklore driven sound.

At 48 minutes in run time, this is a longer and more substantial album than the debut. But whereas I described debut as: ‘blending the darkly gothic bleakness of mid 1990s Cold Meat Industry-style dark ambience with a more archaic-edged ritual ambient sound’, here the ‘CMI styled sound’ has been reduced and duly replaced with a central focus on the heathen and folkloric aspects. Yet even with that said, this observation is perhaps overall ‘splitting hairs’, as there is an equal amount to appreciate here under the broader banner of Beckahesten’s ritual ambient folk sound. Available on vinyl or CD in a six panel/double gatefold digi-sleeve.